Have You Read the Newbery Yet?

Why haven’t I shared the best MG fiction book of 2022?

FREEWATER by Amina Luqman-Dawson was honored by the Newbery AND the Coretta Scott King Awards committees on January 30, 2023! I can’t stop talking about this exemplary novel for MG readers (actually for anyone ten and older who loves to read the best books.) I am overwhelmed with its excellence, but I couldn’t decide what to share.

Lucky me. For the first time I read the Newbery winner before it was announced. I had the honor to be a Round 2 judge for CYBILS in the category of MG fiction. I won’t write about the other six nominees, because FREEWATER was my top pick as soon as I finished reading it in January.

FREEWATER is an exceptional book because it’s a cross-genre novel with experimental elements that work seamlessly. The author combines historical fiction, adventure, and mystery in this multiple POV cast of characters. Can you tell I’m having trouble not gushing over this book?

When I first picked up the book from the library, I was intrigued by the cover of a young black boy with sad eyes. The book is 416 pages and we were tasked to choose the best MG fiction of 2022 from a list of seven titles (out of 100 nominees chosen by the Round One judges!) One of the top criteria is the appeal to this age group. I wondered if the intended readers and I would read that many pages to the end. FREEWATER is an unexpected page-turner.

I read this novel twice in one week. Why? And why do I want my own copy to keep?

The chapters are short. The multiple characters narrate in two POVs. The main character shares his story in first person. The secondary characters are presented in third person with each young character’s unique personalities and conflicts overcome in realistic ways. Every chapter leads to new crises engaging me so I couldn’t put the book down. The skill of this debut author provided craftsmanship for upper MG readers, young adult readers and every reader who loves great writing. This novel is a mentor text for me.

One of the best elements is the theme that’s expressed from the beginning, starting with the appropriate title. All the main characters are enslaved on a plantation in the southern United States. Running for freedom, two youngsters are guided to a community living in the swamps. (Ms Luqman-Dawson discovered the history of slaves escaping to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina which she shares in a video available on Amazon.) The community in the swamp learns to use every part of the water to survive using their own ingenuity.

You owe it to yourself to find this exemplary novel starring Homer and Ada and their families. The second printing has arrived at my independent bookstore. I will cherish this book and gift the title to many avid family members and friends.

One more special tidbit about FREEWATER: the author is planning a second book with one of the secondary characters. I can’t wait to see what you think of book one and what’s coming in the future of Amina Luqman-Dawson’s writing journey.

Please read this blog post on Greg Pattridge’s MG blog Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays along with other MG novel reviews.

Happy reading this spring!

1 Comment

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One response to “Have You Read the Newbery Yet?

  1. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to copy tge book cover in my review. Thank you to Greg for sharing a thmbnail sketch!

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